Category: Academic Departments

Susan Fournier Delves Deeper Into Social Listening in HBR

December 11th, 2013 in Faculty, Faculty in the News, Marketing, News

Fournier outlines steps to getting more value out of social media brand-chatter


Last month, Susan Fournier, Questrom Professor in Management and professor of marketing, advised marketers in the Harvard Business Review: Think like an anthropologist. Instead of breaking down big data into percentages and meaningless numbers, tap into social media chatter to get a real glimpse into how consumers are living and thinking. A single comment or photo posted about a company’s product can impact its consumer knowledge and its profitability—don’t ignore it.

In a follow-up to her piece on this anthropological approach to big data, Fournier, once again in collaboration with Bob Rietveld, managing director and cofounder of Oxyme, delves deeper into the value of social listening and offers further instruction: Think like a market researcher. The information gained from social listening can be as robust a source of strategic inspiration as any must-have diagnostics on the dashboard, the pair writes. Not to mention, social listening is inexpensive and efficient, because surveying is unnecessary: unsolicited comments from consumers are already out there, awaiting analysis.

Fournier and Rietveld outline four steps to getting more value out of social media brand-chatter:

Make sure the quality of your social-listening data is good.

Like all data, the information you glean from social media should be subject to market-research protocols for reliability and validity. Ask the same kinds of tough questions you’d ask about any research project. Are the data drawn from the entire social-media landscape? Is the sampling of comments statistically sound? Is the system of data classification, in terms of topics, themes, and sentiments, accurate? Does your automated coding allow for idiomatic meanings, as in “This brand is the s—t”? The insights you get from social media are only as good as the data set you create.

Don’t make your social-media data stand alone.

Information from social listening must be correlated with other streams of data that the company is using. For example, in an analysis we performed for a transport company, we found that complaints shared on daily Twitter feeds tracked 90% with the content of customer-service comments registered by phone or mail. Linkages like this go a long way toward speeding the adoption of social-media data as a valid strategic-insight source.

Think about “impact” and not just ROI.

Marketing managers tend to take too narrow a view of social listening, seeing it merely as a way to measure the return on investment of specific marketing campaigns. For example, an electric-toothbrush maker that had launched a campaign to woo “non-electric” brushers was dismayed to learn that the resulting burst of social-media activity came mostly from existing users. It branded the campaign a flop and moved on.

In so doing, the company overlooked the value of what it had found on social-media sites. Users were sharing positive stories, advocating electric brushing, and in some cases expressing their love of the company’s brand. The company was getting a rare unfiltered look at how consumers were living the impact of the company’s strategies and brands.

Be sure your social-listening analyses make their way out of the marketing-research department

and into the wider organization, including leadership circles. Don’t let the information stay bottled up in the departments that collected and “own” the data. That means establishing a common analytical currency and language throughout the company so that managers can take action and be held accountable. One company we worked with created a Center for Digital Excellence to coordinate data on a vast brand portfolio. The company tied the digital indicators to bonus compensations, signaling C-level commitment to the program. It’s that kind of high-level integration that enables companies to focus efforts and resources effectively, creating value for the firm.

View the full piece here.

Mark Williams on WBUR, Washington Post & More: Beware of Bitcoin

December 5th, 2013 in Faculty, Faculty in the News, Finance, News

Real value is created through meaningful innovation and adoption—not from smoke and mirror deception

Mark T. Williams, Boston University School of Management executive-in-residence and master lecturer of finance, warns against the peer-to-peer electronic payment network Bitcoin in a wide range of media commentary, arguing that investors across the globe should steer clear of this “dangerous speculative bubble” and its “get-rich-quick mindset.”

Excerpts from Williams’s commentary for WBUR MarkWilliams (Dec. 5, 2013):

Bitcoin is not a futuristic currency but a speculative mania. Greed is pushing prices skyward but fear will quickly bring those same prices crashing back to earth. Investors need to separate the promising technological innovation of digital currency from the Bitcoin Ponzi scheme that will harm those that fail to exit before the bottom falls out.

Bitcoin is another example of “market innovation” that deserves closer scrutiny from the Securities and Exchange Commission. SEC Chairman Mary Jo White has said virtual currency itself may not be considered a “security,” but interest issued or returns gained by it likely would be and therefore subject to regulation. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress that the Fed “does not necessarily have authority to directly supervise or regulate these innovations.” And the Justice Department says Bitcoin is legal, but that doesn’t mean it is adequately market tested, investment safe and ready to be a global currency.

Bitcoin is not a currency with intrinsic value but a hyper bubble fueled by a get-rich-quick mindset.

Excerpts from The Washington Post blog “The Switch” (Dec. 10. 2013):

In recent weeks, some Bitcoin critics have been rethinking their initial Bitcoin skepticism. But others are as convinced as ever that the cryptocurrency is doomed. One of the harshest critics is Mark Williams, who teaches finance at the Boston University School of Management. He predicts that in the first half of 2014, bitcoins will lose almost 99 percent of their value, falling below $10.

Timothy B. Lee: What informs your thinking about the future of Bitcoin?

Mark Williams: I used to be the senior vice president of a commodity trading firm in Boston. I’m very familiar with commodity prices with high volatility. For example, energy prices would have swings of 400 to 500 percent in a year. That’s significant price movement.

But Bitcoin is in a universe of its own. Right now Bitcoin is looking at price movements as high as 8000 percent since January. It moved from $13 per bitcoin to a high of $1200. So what we see then is considerable risk associated with Bitcoin.

At least with a commodity like power, natural gas or oil, there’s an underlying value. That product can be used for something. With Bitcoin, it’s a virtual commodity, so there’s no backing. In essence, Bitcoin is worth something as long as you or I are willing to sell things for it. But if you say I’d rather have $1,000 than a bitcoin, Bitcoin is going to drop like a rock.

Excerpt from Williams’s interview on “Bitcoin’s future in Europe and the US” for The Voice of Russia (Dec. 20, 2013):

Bitcoin…has too much movement to be used as a medium of exchange….With any currency, you have to have trust in that currency, and you have to have stability….In the last two weeks, we’ve seen a drop of almost 50%. It’s almost like a roller-coaster out of control.

Read the full WBUR commentary and Washington Post interview, or listen in on Williams’s full radio interview on The Voice of Russia.

Shuba Srinivasan Quoted in CRM Buyer

December 5th, 2013 in Faculty, Faculty in the News, Marketing, News

Srinivasan on effective subject lines in email marketing


Email marketing is a key strategy for retailers looking to spread the word about holiday shopping deals. But not just any email, Erika Morphy writes in CRM Buyer—mobile email. A full 48 percent of email is now opened on a mobile device, according to Ashley Twist, senior innovation strategist of mobility at Engauge. Now more than ever, consumers are using their mobile devices in stores for last-minute product research, including email offers from local merchants, the pieces notes.

In order to provide a high-quality mobile experience for consumers, marketers must be familiar with the best practices in mobile email marketing, particularly with crafting an effective subject line, on which Boston University School of Management professor of marketing Shuba Srinivasan weighs in:

“Subject lines make the first impression,” Boston University professor Shuba Srinivasan told CRM Buyer. “They need to be inviting enough to not give away the whole email, concise enough that they fit on the screen of all devices and clear enough that people know why you’re sending an email.”

Read the full piece here.

Susan Fournier in HBR: Making Meaning out of Big Data

November 25th, 2013 in Emerging Research, Faculty, Faculty in the News, Marketing, News

To Understand Consumer Data, Think Like an Anthropologist


Harvard Business Review featured a piece from Questrom Professor in Management Susan Fournier and Bob Rietveld, managing director and cofounder of Netherlands-based marketing analytics firm Oxyme, in which the two write that the meaning within consumer data lies with social media, such as pictures and comments on products, not with percentages. Focusing on social-media chatter can have a profound impact on a firm’s consumer knowledge and, consequently, its profitability. Unfortunately, the piece notes, many people in business don’t appreciate the value of that chatter. Rather than treat consumer comments as noise, use social media as a glimpse into the consumer’s life and discover how he or she is really living. In other words, think like an anthropologist.

“Sure, sure,” the numbers-oriented marketing executives may say. Social listening is great for “exploratory” research, but only as a precursor to “real” research that will determine the truth of what’s being said online. What’s needed, they’ll tell you, is broad-based consumer research using representative samples and adequate sample sizes.

Querying a representative sample is great for testing a hypothesis or finding a statistical relationship between known concepts. But often, in marketing, you’re dealing with multiple unknowns. Social listening doesn’t presuppose anything. It has no constraints. Although qualitative information won’t give you a simple equation or statistic that you can show the CEO, it can provide answers to questions you didn’t even know you had.

And comments from a non-representative sample can be highly illuminating. For example, in tech markets, think of the users who regularly post to discussion groups focused on tech products. These knowledgeable netizens provide critical knowledge about product uptake and issues around quality or perception. The same can be said of fan groups and user groups in a variety of fields.

An important player in the electric-shaver category discovered this. Before the launch of a high-end shaver that was to be priced at more than $500 and was encased in brushed aluminum, an Australian retailer posted pictures and specifications of the product online. Almost immediately, consumers began commenting about the product’s “plastic aesthetic” and “cheap look and feel.” The manufacturer took prompt action, posting a new photo series highlighting the quality manufacturing process and construction, neutralizing the negative sentiment spreading online.

Successfully disseminating the results of social listening requires skill at seeing stories and developing insights from messy data. It also requires a penchant for simplicity.

Read the full piece here.

The School’s New Full-Time Faculty Hires and Promotions

November 19th, 2013 in Accounting, Faculty, Finance, Information Systems, Marketing, Markets, Public Policy & Law, New Faculty/Promoted, Organizational Behavior, Strategy & Innovation

Boston University School of Management is delighted to welcome our new full-time faculty members and to extend congratulations on the following recent hires and promotions:

New Associate and Assistant Professors


Dirk Hackbarth
Associate Professor, Finance

Dirk Hackbarth earned both his PhD and MS at the Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley; his MSc at the London School of Economics; and a diploma in business economics at the University of Cologne. As an internationally leading scholar in dynamic corporate finance, his research focuses on capital structure, distress risk, corporate investment, mergers and acquisitions, and real options. His papers have been presented at many competitive conferences and published in a variety of top-tier academic journals. He currently serves as associate editor of Management Science and Review of Finance. Recent appointments include the Robert and Karen May Faculty Fellow and associate professor of finance, College of Business, University of Illinois.

Olga2Olga Hawn
Assistant Professor, Strategy & Innovation

Olga Hawn received her PhD in 2013 from Duke University, her master’s from the University of Oxford, and her bachelor’s and master’s from Plekhanov Russian Academy of Economics. Her research focuses on global strategy issues from a neo-institutional perspective, particularly the effect of legitimization on firm performance. Her work also places special emphasis on corporate social responsibility issues. Olga’s scholarship has been selected for AoM’s Best Paper Proceedings, SIM Division Best Paper Award, as well as nominated for SMS Best Paper Award. She has been published in Research Policy and serves on the editorial board for Strategic Management Journal.


Koichiro Ito
Assistant Professor, Markets, Public Policy & Law

Koichiro Ito holds a PhD in agricultural and resource economics from the University of California, Berkeley; an MA in economics from the University of British Columbia; and a BA in economics from Kyoto University. His research focuses on environmental and energy economics, industrial organization, and public economics. He has work forthcoming in the American Economic Review and served as a postdoctoral fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, as well as a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Other honors include the UC Berkeley Competition Policy Center Dissertation Award and the Resources for the Future Joseph L. Fisher Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship.

Elizabeth Rouse

Elizabeth (Bess) D. Rouse
Assistant Professor, Organizational Behavior

Bess Rouse earned both her PhD in management and organization in 2013 and her MS in organization studies from Boston College, and her SB in brain and cognitive sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her research focuses on the experience of creative workers in contexts such as entrepreneurship, video game design, modern dance, and product development. Prior to pursuing her doctorate, Bess worked at McLean Hospital’s brain imaging center. Her honors include being named runner-up in the INFORMS/Organization Science Dissertation Proposal Competition; finalist for the Best Student Paper Award, MOC Division, Academy of Management; and winner of the OB Division’s Best Symposium Award from the Academy of Management.

Gustavo_110x110Gustavo Schwenkler
Assistant Professor, Finance

Gustavo Schwenkler received his PhD in management science and engineering in 2013 from Stanford University and his diploma in applied mathematics and economics from the University of Cologne. His research focuses on the development of statistical and computational tools for the measurement of financial risks. Prior to pursuing his doctorate, he served as a summer associate in the unit of investment banking strategies at Goldman Sachs; an intern in risk and portfolio management at Sal. Oppenheim, Jr. & Cie.; and an intern in sales and trading at Deutsche Bank. Gustavo’s academic honors include the Gerald J. Lieberman Fellowship and the Stanford Graduate Fellowship, both from Stanford University.

Jiayin “Monic” Sun

Monic Sun
Assistant Professor, Marketing

Monic Sun holds a PhD in economics and an MA in political economy from Boston University, as well as a BA in economics from Peking University, P.R. China. Her scholarship marketing models to topics such as social networks, Internet marketing, and information search and disclosure. Monic was previously a visiting assistant professor of marketing at USC Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California and an assistant professor of marketing at Stanford Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. Her honors include being a finalist for the John D.C. Little Award, the NET Institute Summer Research Grants, and the Management Science Journal Meritorious and Distinguished Service Awards.

Yuan “Estelle” Sun

Yuan (Estelle) Sun
Assistant Professor, Accounting

Estelle Sun earned both her PhD in accounting in 2013 and her master of science in business administration from the Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, as well as a bachelor of commerce in accounting from the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. Her research focuses on earnings management, accounting fraud, accounting conservatism, voluntary disclosure, and auditing. She has work forthcoming or appearing in the Journal of Accounting & EconomicsJournal of Accounting and Public PolicyAccounting and Finance, and the Journal of Contemporary Accounting and Economics. Estelle was awarded both the Crawford Dissertation Fellowship and the Crawford Research Assistant Fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley.


Georgios Zervas
Assistant Professor, Marketing

Georgios Zervas holds a PhD in computer science from Boston University, an MA in interactive media from the London College of Communication, and an MSc and BEng in computer science from Imperial College. Previously a Simons Postdoctoral Fellow in computer science at Yale University, Georgios’s research explores the intersection of economics, marketing, and computer science, identifying unique online phenomena, acquiring novel data through creative web scraping, and applying creative empirical techniques. Among other publications, his paper “The Groupon Effect on Yelp Ratings” appeared in the Proceedings of the 13th ACM Conference on Electronic Commerce. Georgios’s honors include the Departmental Research Achievement Award from Boston University’s computer science department.

New Lecturers


Ann Halford
Executive Director, Digital Technology
Executive-in-Residence/Lecturer, Information Systems

Ann Halford earned her BA in zoology from the University of Tennessee and an MS in computer science from the University of Memphis. Thirty-six years ago, she began her career as a programmer and has since managed product development and IT organizations. She has worked with a wide variety of technologies—from chips to massively parallel supercomputers. She has had e-commerce, mobile device, and large global data center responsibilities, as well as held various executive positions in both start-ups, including her own, and Fortune 100s. Her past employers include Data General, Alliant Computer Systems, Sun Microsystems, Amadeus Global Travel, and, most recently, Staples.

Paul Hutchinson

Paul Hutchinson
Lecturer, Organizational Behavior

Paul Hutchinson earned his MS in experiential education from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and BA in history from Gettysburg College. He taught at New England College and Lynchburg College before becoming an adjunct professor at Boston University School of Management, where he now moves to full-time. A frequent conference speaker on experiential education and outdoor education and leadership, his practical experience includes a leadership position in experience-based training at Boston University Metropolitan College and coordinating the Outdoor Adventure and Leadership Development programs at Lynchburg College. Paul is currently writing his dissertation to complete his PhD in American and New England studies at Boston University.

Gina Powers

Gina Powers
Lecturer, Markets, Public Policy & Law

Gina Powers holds a juris doctor from the New England School of Law and both an MEd and BA in English and communications from Boston College. She is an attorney and sole practitioner in residential and commercial real estate and has served as an expert witness in real estate litigation matters. She has been a guest lecturer at the New England School of Law and instructor for the Greater Boston Real Estate Board. Gina also serves as a director for One Mission, a pediatric cancer foundation, through which she has hosted fundraisers to benefit Children’s Hospital Boston and the Jimmy Fund. Since 2005, she has served as an adjunct professor at the School, now becoming a full-time lecturer.

David Spieler

David Spieler
Lecturer, Finance

David Spieler holds an MBA in finance from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, an MS in civil engineering from Bucknell University, and a BS in civil engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Prior to joining SMG full time, David was a managing director in the Valuation Advisory Services practice at Duff & Phelps, LLC, and leader of the firm’s Boston office, managing director with Standard & Poor’s Corporate Value Consulting, and partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers. He was also a senior consultant and the financial management unit leader at Arthur D. Little, Inc. David is a Chartered Financial Analyst who has expertise in business planning and valuation, intellectual property valuation, and providing expert testimony.

Recent Faculty Promotions

Samina KarimSamina Karim
Associate Professor, Strategy & Innovation

Samina Karim holds a PhD in corporate strategy from University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, a master’s in applied economics from University of Michigan’s economics department, a master’s in education from Harvard University, and a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Cornell University. A leading expert in the area of corporate restructuring and the reconfiguration of resources and market activities, Samina is especially interested in mobile devices and services, and has extensive experience in the medical sector both in her research and her previous work as an R&D engineer with Hewlett-Packard’s former medical products group.

Tim SimcoeTim Simcoe
Associate Professor, Strategy & Innovation

Tim Simcoe received his AB in Applied Math and Economics from Harvard University, and an MA in Economics and PhD in Business Administration from the University of California at Berkeley. An expert in the area of compatibility standards, Tim focuses his research on innovation, science and technology policy, intellectual property, and corporate strategy. Before joining the School of Management, he worked at the University of Toronto and Ernst & Young, LLP. He is a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Shuba SrinivasanShuba Srinivasan
Professor, Marketing
Dean’s Research Fellow
Academic Co-Lead, Digital Technology Sector

Shuba Srinivasan obtained her MS in physics and MBA in marketing from the Indian Institute of Management, and her PhD in marketing from the University of Texas at Dallas. A professor of marketing, a dean’s research fellow, and academic co-lead in the digital technology sector at the School, Shuba’s research focuses on strategic marketing problems, in particular linking marketing to financial performance. With her co-authors, Shuba was awarded the 2010 Google-WPP research grant for research on audience-based online metrics. Other honors include the 2010 Broderick Prize for excellence in research at the School, as well as the 2001 EMAC best paper award.

Griner_KathrynKathryn Griner
Master Lecturer, Finance

Kathryn Griner holds a BA in economics from Wellesley College and an MBA in finance from Harvard Business School. A senior lecturer in finance, Kathryn received the 2001 Broderick Prize for Service to the Undergraduate Programs at the School, as well as served on the academic conduct, scholarship, undergraduate program development, and technology committees. Before joining the School in 1994, Kathryn served as vice president of the investment banking department at Credit Suisse First Boston, advising industrial and technology accounts in the New England region.


Mcmanus_PaulPaul Mcmanus
Strategy & Innovation Executive-in-Residence
Executive Director, Social Enterprises and Sustainability Sector

Paul McManus received his MBA from Boston University and his BS in mechanical engineering technology from Wentworth Institute of Technology. A lecturer in the Strategy & Innovation department, Paul serves as the executive director of the newly formed Social Enterprise & Environmental Sustainability Initiative, in which he leads the School’s emerging focus on this sector and is responsible for the creation and implementation of related practice-oriented programing for undergraduate and graduate students. Prior to joining the faculty full time in 2006, Paul was the Human Capital Partner at Boston Millennia Partners, a $740M venture capital fund with international investments in early-stage technology ventures in the life sciences, healthcare, medical device, information technology, and telecommunications industries.

David Randall

David Randall
Master Lecturer, Markets, Public Policy & Law
Faculty Director, Undergraduate Honors Program

David Randall obtained a BA in political science from Boston University College of Liberal Arts and a JD from Northeastern University School of Law. A senior lecturer of business law, Internet law, privacy law, and real estate law in undergraduate and graduate programs, David serves as the faculty director of the SMG undergraduate honors program and received the Broderick Award for Service to the Undergraduate Program in 2012. He was formerly the president and CEO of Metro Health Foundation, Inc., as well as a part-time lecturer in business law at Babson College.

Chris Dellarocas on Why Linking to Your Competitors May Benefit Everyone

October 22nd, 2013 in Digital Technologies, Digital Technology Sector, Emerging Research, Faculty, Information Systems, News, Uncategorized

From Dellarocas, C., Katona, Z., & Rand, W. (2013). Media, aggregators and the link economy: Strategic hyperlink formation in content networks. Management Science, 59 (10), 2360-2379.

In today’s link economy, whether a blogger paraphrases news articles or a fully automated aggregator harvests content from across the web, the pathways between content producers and audiences have become increasingly complex. So how should content producers respond to competition from aggregators and from each other?

How should content producers respond to competition from aggregators and from each other?

A new study from Boston University School of Management’s Chrysanthos Dellarocas, professor of information systems and director of Boston University’s Digital Learning Initiative, together with Zsolt Katona (University of California at Berkeley) and William Rand (University of Maryland), is the first to model the complex, interrelated implications of strategic hyperlinking and investment in content production. Their analysis, demonstrating scenarios in which such links can boost everyone’s profits, thus yields important implications for professional content producers who have until now been reluctant to link to competitors.

When Linking Increases Profits

Addressing questions relevant to both firms and regulators, Dellarocas et al. identify gaps in existing network economics research around the impact of freely established links and the strategies that motivate their formation. For example, what are the effects of linking to competitors, and when should inbound links be refused?

Dellarocas and his co-authors show that although linking can result in low-quality sites free-riding on high-quality content, “in settings where there are evenly matched competitors, the option of placing links across sites may lead to equilibria where some or all sites are better off relative to a no-link setting.”

Links between peer content sites can increase profits by reducing competition, overproduction, and duplication. The intuition is that, instead of each site expending resources to produce what is essentially duplicate content, everyone can benefit if one site specializes in producing really good content and other sites link to it. Sites that invest in high-quality content benefit from additional referred traffic, while those publishing the links become trusted hubs that attract visitors without having to pay the cost of content production. Different sites might specialize in producing content on different topics, one on politics and another on sports, for example. Thus, all sites produce the type of content they are best at and link to the rest. In this scenario, consumers benefit all-round.

The authors point out that the above scenario can sustain the market entry of inefficient players, allowing them to free-ride on the success of other content sites by linking to them, potentially denting the revenues of target sites. Still, no content site would benefit from unilaterally blocking such links, because then free-riding sites would simply link to their competitors.

The Impact of Aggregators

Acknowledging that aggregators ‘steal’ traffic from content sites, the authors also point out that, “by making it easier for consumers to access good content, aggregators increase the attractiveness of the entire content ecosystem and, thus, also attract traffic away from alternative media.”

While aggregators may direct more traffic to high-quality sites, they also take away a slice of profits from content sites. This happens because some aggregator visitors check article headlines and snippets at the aggregator but never click through to the original articles. Furthermore, aggregators tend to increase competition between content sites. This may boost quality but reduce content producer profits.

See more about “Media, Aggregators and the Link Economy: Strategic Hyperlink Formation in Content Networks,” at Management Science.

Wall Street Journal, BBC Spotlight Georgios Zervas’s Research on Fake Online Reviews

September 25th, 2013 in Emerging Research, Faculty, Faculty in the News, Marketing, News

Media references SMG assistant professor’s paper “Fake it Till You Make it”

The Wall Street Journal has repeatedly spotlighted the research of Georgios Zervas, Boston University School of Management assistant professor of marketing, on the consequences of fake online reviews. Both the Journal’s Corporate Intelligence blog and its “Morning Risk Report,” which provides insights and news on governance, risk, and compliance, featured recent posts on the writing and solicitation of fake online reviews.

One post, “Fake Reviews Raise Reputation Stakes,” was prompted by New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman’s targeting fraudulent online reviewers this week under his new initiative “Operation Clean Turf,” a yearlong undercover investigation into the reputation management industry, the manipulation of consumer-review websites, and the practice of astroturfing.

Zervas notes that the consequences for writing and soliciting fake reviews are very low and that, for anyone with a computer, crafting a fake review is simple. He is quoted saying:

“The New York attorney general is trying to increase the cost of being uncovered as a fraudster. I think it’s a small first step in the right direction.”

Zervas, who completed his PhD in 2011 in computer science at Boston University, also explains that the problem of fake reviews extends beyond New York’s borders. His paper “Fake it Till You Make it” was co-authored with Harvard Business School assistant professor Michael Luca.

Focusing on the issue of fake restaurant reports, BBC News, in the article “Yelp admits a quarter of submitted reviews could be fake,” writes,

Michael Luca of Harvard Business School and Georgios Zervas of Boston University studied the incidence of fraudulent reviews of Boston restaurants posted to Yelp, including those that had been filtered out.

After analysing more than 310,000 reviews of 3,625 restaurants, they found that negative fake reviews occurred in response to increased competition, while positive fake reviews were used to strengthen a weak reputation or to counteract unflattering reviews.

Read more from from BBC News or the Journal‘s “Morning Risk Report“, Corporate Intelligence blog, or MarketWatch site.

Boston University Places in Top 15 Master’s Programs in Financial Engineering

September 25th, 2013 in Finance, MSMF, News, Press Release, School

SMG’s Mathematical Finance program climbs three positions in Quantnet rankings

Boston University School of Management placed 14th on Quantnet’s list of the top master’s programs in financial engineering in North America, which represents a three-spot jump for the School.

The School’s 17-month Master of Science in Mathematical Finance program received a total score of 78, with 100 being perfect, missing the 12th position by only a point. It placed 17th in the previous Quantnet ranking.

The program, which integrates practical domains of mathematics with an in-depth study of the theory and practice of modern finance, has become increasingly competitive, and recognizes that, within three months of graduation, 80 percent of students received job offers.

Quantnet, an online resource that provides information on education and careers in financial engineering, surveyed program administrators, hiring managers, and quantitative finance professionals in order to compile its rankings.

See the full list of rankings here. Quantnet encourages current students and recent graduates to write a review of the program here.

Are Today’s Students “Ethically Broken?” Academy of Management Review Consults BU’s Kabrina Chang

June 26th, 2013 in Faculty, Faculty in the News, Markets, Public Policy & Law, News, Social Impact

A recent post on the Academy of Management Review’s (AMR) Ethicist Blog explores new questions gaining traction in management education: Are today’s students “ethically broken” when they enter business schools? And, “through the use of ‘normal’ business school language, modeling, and metrics,” in the classroom, does management faculty “perpetuate ‘broken’ student perspectives and behaviors”?

AMR turned to Boston University School of Management Assistant Professor Kabrina Kebrel Chang to answer these questions, writing, “Chang and her holistic re-framing of how Boston University School of Management is approaching business ethics were featured in a recent Wall Street Journal article. She is a lawyer who teaches business law and ethics at BU, and her research includes how social media is fundamentally influencing employment decisions.”

Asked about how she approaches ethics, particularly in the undergraduate classroom, Chang explains,

I am at a b-school in the Northeast and students are uber-motivated. Being in a business school, sadly I take it as a given that we will need to break many of the money=happiness equation. Breaking the equation has to happen in more than one class, and they have to see real examples.…My focus is on the critical thinking skills—getting [students] to broaden their horizons when it comes to decision-making will have a real impact on their ability to make decisions that will take into account the betterment of people and not just the betterment of their business….My take on ethics and the take I employ now…is not to teach [students] right and wrong but to teach them that there’s more to think about with a decision.

Read more on the Academy of Management Review’s blog The Ethicist, or learn more about Kabrina Chang.

New Research from Yanbo Wang on Motivations for Cross-Border Reverse Mergers: Bonding Vs. Defrauding

June 26th, 2013 in Emerging Research, Faculty, News, Strategy & Innovation

From Siegel, J.I., & Wang, Y. (2012). “Cross-border reverse mergers: Causes and consequences.” Harvard Business School Strategy Unit Working Paper No. 12-089.

A new study by strategy scholars Jordan I. Siegel of Harvard Business School and Yanbo Wang of Boston University School of Management looks at the intersection of cross-border reverse mergers, corporate governance outcomes, and the motivational role of bonding vs. defrauding.

Firms typically pursue reverse mergers (where a non-U.S. company seeks to adopt U.S. state- or Federal-level corporate law by targeting a U.S. shell company bound by U.S. state- or Federal-level corporate law and merging with it) to gain a higher or lower level of legal oversight.

In their paper “Cross-Border Reverse Mergers: Causes and Consequences,” Siegel and Wang note that the literature on bonding has paid scant attention to reverse mergers involving state-level corporate law. They aim to correct this, in part because studying these mergers enables a comparison between firms who adopt only state-level corporate law and those renting both state-level corporate law and U.S. federal securities law.

Debunking assumptions about Chinese & Canadian firms in Nevada & Delaware

The researchers compile a study-set using statistics on cross-border reverse mergers into the U.S.; financial data from Capital IQ, Thomson ONE, Worldscope, and Osiris; SEC filing restatements and auditor changes from Audit Analytics; and data on formal enforcement outcomes. They then apply this data to widely held assumptions about cross-border reverse mergers. They explore such questions as:

  • Is Delaware vs. Nevada a good proxy for a firm’s decision to bond itself vs. to defraud investors?
  • Does the choice of a Big Four auditor prove far more important in determining the quality of corporate governance than the choice of U.S. state?
  • Do Chinese reverse merger firms show more frequent negative corporate governance outcomes that Canadian reverse merger firms (the two main sources of cross-border reverse mergers into the U.S.)?

They find that:

  • Later cohorts—companies who adopted the strategy of reverse mergers later, after the first wave of reverse-merger pioneers—tend to display more problematic accounting than the early adopters.
  • Firms with Big Four auditors tend to display less problematic accounting.
  • Chinese firms have no greater tendency to display problematic accounting than any other firms in the data set.
  • The location of Nevada for the reverse-merger  incorporation makes no difference in the likelihood of a firm displaying problematic accounting.

Are cross-border reverse mergers more corrupt than domestic ones?

The study also addresses whether the incidence of bad governance among the cross-border reverse merger sample proves different from among domestic reverse merger firms or American OTC firms in general. Among its findings:

  • The cross-border reverse mergers had lower incidences of trading suspensions than U.S. OTCs for nearly all of the sample time period.
  • The cross-border reverse mergers had lower incidences of SEC enforcement than either the domestic reverse mergers or the American OTC firms for nearly the entire sample time period.
  • The cross-border reverse mergers had an incidence rate of private litigation that was mostly the same or lower than the two comparison groups for most of the sample time period.

Download a copy of the paper “Cross-Border Reverse Mergers: Causes and Consequences.”